Durham City – Home of the Prince Bishops
Towering over the town in truly awesome fashion, Durham Cathedral and Castle symbolise together the spiritual and secular powers of the Bishops Palatine in a manner which, once seen, will never be forgotten.”
Durham Cathedral was built in the late 11th and early 12th centuries to house the relics of St Cuthbert (evangelizer of Northumbria) and the Venerable Bede. It attests to the importance of the early Benedictine monastic community and is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England. The innovative audacity of its vaulting foreshadowed Gothic architecture. Behind the cathedral stands the castle, an ancient Norman fortress which was the residence of the prince-bishops of Durham.
Durham City is situated on the steep banks of the River Wear, the Skyline dominated by the three towers of the Cathedral, and the Castle, set majestically on the Peninsula. This is always the first and awe inspiring view that any visitor to the city is presented with.
The City itself is small and compact with maze of narrow cobbled streets that hide a multitude of quaint and unusual little shops selling everything from antiques to postage stamps. There is a modern shopping centre that does seem out of place in this historic city and the attempt to blend it with the ambient architecture has failed miserably!
A special attraction is Elvet Bridge and this was once a road bridge (along with Framwellgate Bridge, but is now mainly pedestrianised, the bridge used to have more houses on than now, but some of the buildings along the side are still built on the bridges structure. Most of the arches are now used for storage, but at one point they were used as prison cells. The next bridge up is Kingsgate Bridge, a high-level footbridge built by the University of Durham to allow easy access to the Science Site from the Peninsula colleges, and the peninsula departments from the Hill colleges. It has won two awards for design!!!!!?! The bridge was built in two halves one either side of the river, and swung out to meet in the middle. To the north of the town is the station, with its large Victorian viaduct on the London side of the line. Round the back of Old Elvet is the old Durham Jail and Courthouse (The jail has the only high-security non-mental Woman’s Wing in the Country)
The Views over the river Wear are truly picturesque and there is nothing better than a walk along the riverside under the shade of ancient trees to stimulate the feeling of tranquillity that is evident throughout the city. There is a wonderful walkway that leads past the old boathouses and on past the weir and Old Mill (Which must hold some records for being photographed). At the end of the walk you can now enter the city via one of the ancient toll gates and walk back through cobbled streets and pretty old houses and shops. The streets will lead back to the market place where one absolutely MUST buy a Thorntons ice cream and sit under the shade of the horse with no tongue (It has really)!